The Blank Page

Is there anything quite as intimidating as starting a new journey? Of course, there’s a great deal of excitement there, but still, for some of us new endeavors are fearful things, to be avoided at all costs.

And yet, here I am.

Hopefully this will become an interesting journey that many of you will want to take with me.  Hopefully many of you will share the things you’ve learned from your own journey, and thus help me, and perhaps many others along the way.  Hopefully, I will learn things along mine that will be worthy of your time.

Maybe none of that will happen, and that’s okay. What IS happening, is that this will post, and become the first step on the path.  What IS happening is that the intimidating blank page slowly fills with text, and the fear begins to recede. What IS happening is I’m learning to get out of my own way.

Come. This ought to be interesting.

After some struggles and denial, and just plain stubbornness, I’ve come to realize it only makes sense that simplifying my life cannot be done without setting and achieving goals. Now that I admit that, the goal I must achieve is to learn efficient goal work. Sounds kind of complex and New Agey, doesn’t it? Maybe it is, in a way, but it also makes a very practical kind of sense.

I’ve done some a little preliminary research on efficient goal setting (did you know there are folks out there making a fortune selling this information?!), and reached a conclusion or three. First, everyone sets unconscious goals every day, but we often don’t hold ourselves to them; most of the successful people I know consciously set goals. Second, setting goals doesn’t matter at all if you don’t know how to achieve them; you have to make a plan, because just setting a goal is far from a guarantee that you’ll realize it. Third, if you have a goal and a plan, you have simplified your life; you have stopped struggling and panicking about at least one tiny detail, and started doing something straightforward about it.

So, if goal setting is so simple, and so many successful people do it routinely, why doesn’t everyone? Why haven’t I? Well, I’m not sure about other people, but I’m scared. What’s funny about that is I suspect getting a handle on this goal setting stuff will give me the confidence to overcome the fear that has kept me from setting tangible goals. Catch 22.

The trick, then, appears to be starting small, and proving to myself that I can set a goal, make a plan, follow it, and achieve the goal. It is said, and it sounds logical to me, that if you achieve your goal, it builds confidence for the next one, and so on. It makes sense. Really. It’s like building one lesson on top of another. If we learn everything else in our lives that way, why would the same principle not apply here?

The other thing that has kept me from achieving the goals that I have set is that I didn’t form them correctly. They were too general. I had no clue whether I was really making progress toward them or not because there was just no way to measure or set benchmarks. I didn’t give myself a deadline on them. I didn’t always have control of them. I had way bigger goals than I had ability, resources, and confidence to face them with. In short, I didn’t know how to set an attainable goal, so I set myself up to fail. A lot.

So, here we go. I’ve chosen the first goal I’m going to achieve. This month I will create the habit of writing daily. By the end of May, I will routinely sit down and get at least 300 words out per day. They may not be here, they may not be on my other blog. I am not going to force myself into writing something specific while I build the habit. Just the word goal. I already have places and subjects for writing, so that part of the plan is covered. It seems likely that I will have to set a specific time each day that will be my writing time, most likely right after I get home from work, when I have the privacy and fewer interruptions. By the fifteenth, I should be writing daily, even if it’s just a couple of paragraphs here and there. By the twentieth, it should be more solid still, with 150-200 words per day. By the 30th, it will be normal for me to set aside time to write at least short pieces every day, and potentially a great deal more. By doing that, I will have also discovered the best times and places for me to work, which is a nice perk in itself.

I’m pretty sure I can do this, since I religiously chase new entries on blogs that I follow, and when I comment, it’s rarely short. Heck, I’ve already met today’s goal by about 200%!

Recent Mantras

Get Out Of Your Own Way

We go to a lot of effort to manufacture reasons for not doing what we should be doing, what we know will fulfill us. We tell ourselves we don’t have time, or we don’t have the money, or whatever other excuse we can come up with. We also manage to convince ourselves that some activities are just much harder than they are.  I have started trying to catch myself at this, and step back to take a look. I ask myself why I’m stalling, what I’m afraid of, and what I think will happen if I do the thing I’ve tried to avoid. Then, I try to…

Do It Now

instead of putting it off for later. If I wash up the dinner dishes, it will take three to five minutes. If I don’t, tomorrow it will take ten minutes, because tomorrow’s dishes will be added. If I write that 250 words, I’ll be that much further in the book. If I don’t, I’ll guilt trip myself out of writing at all, or I’ll guilt trip myself into writing a thousand words that are crap.

Things become complicated because we make them that way.  It’s apparently in our nature, possibly a fear reaction. I know I get in my way as often as not, sometimes even when I’m paying attention.

Sometimes it’s not as easy as it sounds.

It’s interesting to note how our concepts of required personal space change over time. I can remember when I was very small (like 3 or 4) I wanted to be constantly in touch range of somebody. After my first day of school at age 6, I didn’t want anyone closer than three feet, except my parents. Touching, again for anyone except parents, was absolutely out of the question. I cannot recall any particular incident that might have triggered this. I just know that my first day of school changed everything.

My personal space needs have varied considerably since then, but I’ve never returned to that comfort in touch that I had as a small child, except with lovers. This gets to be a problem, sometimes, because I work with a lot of very “touchy” people. My coworkers love my hair, for example, and are forever coming up behind me and catching hold of my hair when it’s tailed back, or running their fingers through it. To them this is entirely normal, if only because my hair is long, straight, and real, all three of which are uncommon where I work; they’re curious because it’s different, so they touch. To me, these are the actions of a lover, and that kind of intimacy is unwelcome in the workplace. Hell, it’s unwelcome anywhere except in intimate circumstances, with people I’ve invited into that space. I’ve had to forcibly curb the urge to do physical violence, usually by grabbing and holding onto the nearest non-sentient object until the urge passes. If I’m caught off guard by a hair touch, the toucher is going to get hurt. The hair thing is extreme, and I think most likely I’ll have it all my life. Interestingly, those who are allowed to touch my hair are also encouraged to; if I hand you a brush, resign yourself to being there a while.

Almost everyone I know hugs. That’s another one that will set my teeth on edge, but it’s orders of magnitude easier than dealing with having my hair touched. Hugs are generally not sneak attacks, so I’ve got a few seconds to prepare. I can hug most of my family members, and most of my friends. I can tolerate it from people I know casually, if it’s quick and has a little space in between, but a handshake is still preferred. Strangers…umm..no. Stay back five feet, please.

Random touches, such as a hand on my arm or shoulder are only slightly more tolerable than touching my hair. Again, surprises will usually lead to violence, or at least extreme rudeness. I think the worst as far as random touches are those from people that I don’t like (and I probably don’t like them because they seem to feel the need to touch me if they’re talking to me). Usually if the offending appendage is not voluntarily removed within the first ten seconds of eye contact, it’s going to be forcibly removed, and usually my pulling away is the least violent of these reactions.

Having just perused a wikipedia article on the topic, I find that my comfort zone is not that much narrower than that of most westerners. My response to touch, however, based on my experiences and the responses of those around me when I react to unwelcome space violations, seems to be rather intense. Or maybe I’m just having to endure the wrong company—also a distinct possibility.

Though these responses have been in place most of my life, I have had them vary from time to time, depending on circumstance. After my first divorce, for example, the only way I could tolerate anyone closer to me than arm’s reach and a yardstick was to classify them as inanimate, which included refusing to make eye contact and ignoring conversation attempts until I was able to move enough to put safe space between us. After my second divorce, I had very nearly the opposite reaction. I was more able to tolerate people in my space than I had been in my entire adult life. This stage lasted about six months, then gradually returned to my “normal” space demand.

It’s somewhat comforting to know that at least one of my needs falls very nearly within the range of normal tolerance for my culture. But it also makes me wonder just what’s up with all these people surrounding me who have this obsession with touching others.

Maybe the need to touch is different from the need for personal space. Maybe broken people experience touch as nightmarish unless it’s invited. Maybe we interpret that as a violation of personal space, instead of a violation of person. Maybe it’s not just broken people, either, though I think if we’re honest, we’re all broken in one form or another.

Does it need fixing? The immediate response is, of course, no. The part of my psyche that hates touch, hates allowing anyone closer than five feet, hates strangers, hates change, that part of me says that it’s exactly what’s needed for survival. The rational part of me thinks this is excessive. Normal Consciousness says, “Do what you do. Make decisions one at a time, based on circumstance, then hug or hospitalize as needed.”

I can work with that, actually.

Just posted to Blogster (http://simplytrace.blogster.com/gratitudes-garden-march-31-2009)and am ready to head home.